By Michael Todd
What currently regulates social media companies? Section 230 is the primary legal framework for the internet that we know today and relies heavily on user content rather than company-created content. More importantly, it provides immunity to social media companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, protecting them against lawsuits over site content. Without Section 230, companies would not be willing to take as many risks as they do today and would be less inclined to stifle the speech of those they disagree with.
In 1996, section 230 was passed into law as part of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), commonly referred to as Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, formally codified as Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 at 47 U.S.C. § 230. As it stands, section 230 prevents operators of interactive computer services from being held liable for information provided by third-party users. In other words, they cannot be treated as a publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
Why is it beneficial to tech companies?
It provides a broad shield for tech companies by absolving them of liability and protecting them from lawsuits over content produced by users on their sites. In the case of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, they have taken the protections afforded them by the CDA and used them as surrogates to help Democrats prevent negative news reports from circulating on their platforms. An example of this is their quick response to the Hunter Biden laptop and the information it contained. Many of the people included in the email chains have verified the authenticity of the information, and Hunter Biden and his lawyer both requested the laptop back, verifying past ownership. Yet Facebook and Twitter restricted every account sharing the news while calling the claims unfounded. In contrast, Google, Facebook, and Twitter did nothing to prevent the false dossiers distribution used to attack President Trump for three and a half years. Nor did they restrict accounts pushing the false Russian collusion hoax.
Why the tech companies stifling free speech will hurt them and our society
Interactive computer services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and many avenues of intellectual activity. These companies have flourished while providing a beneficial communication service with minimal government regulation. By taking sides in the battle of political ideas, they open themselves up to rules that will make them increasingly unattractive as a public space. These companies don’t seem to understand that they’ve become utilities that are essential to our society. It is critical to preserve a vibrant and competitive free market for the internet and other interactive computer services, unencumbered with heavy-handed Federal or State regulation.
By actively providing in-kind donations such as restricting web search data, articles, and a slew of information critical of the Democrats, tech companies are unapologetically tipping the scales for one political party over the other. While many on the left clamor for increased regulation of the internet to restrict opposing points of view, it is a zero-sum game that will negatively affect them as well. This flies in the face of the internet’s original intention of being a free market for ideas and services. With increased political suppression, the tech giants are opening up the internet to expanded censorship, destroying one of the last places of innovation free of government intervention.